NewsletterThe veterinarians and staff at the Town & Country Animal Hospital are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fun and fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis.

Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to pet care, information on our animal hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine.

Please enjoy the newsletter!

Current Newsletter Topics

Lyme Disease: How to Protect Yourself and Your Pets

Lyme disease, an illness that is transmitted by hard-bodied ticks such as the deer tick, is a serious disease affecting humans and pets across the country. While being around ticks may be hard to avoid, there are many things you can do to prevent Lyme disease from becoming a debilitating disorder for you and your pets.

Although Lyme disease has been diagnosed in people in all 50 states, more than 80 percent of human cases have occurred in the eastern states from Massachusetts to Virginia. The disease was named after Lyme, Conn., where the first human cases occurred in 1975. Ticks obtain the disease from the mammals they feed on, which include rodents and deer, and pass it on to humans and other animals, such as dogs, through a bite. Symptoms of the disease in humans include a rash and/or symptoms of the flu, followed by joint pain and possible arthritis.

Pets handle the disease differently, however. For example, canines will not show signs of the disease for several weeks or months after infection. If it is caught early, they will respond quickly to a round of antibiotics. Symptoms in dogs include arthritis and occasional fever. If undiagnosed for a long period of time, dogs can develop glomerular disease, a type of kidney damage caused by overstimulation of the immune system by an infectious organism.

Similarly, the methods for prevention of infection differ for humans and animals. A vaccine exists for dogs, which should be boostered annually. It is also advisable to avoid tick-infested areas, if possible. Use of a tick collar or monthly topical preventative such as Frontline Plus, K9 Advantix or other similar product and careful examination of your pet after she or he has been in an area that ticks may be present are additional ways to prevent Lyme disease in your dog.

While the FDA approved a human vaccine in 1998, it was removed from the market in 2002 due to poor sales, according to the Winter 2001/ pring 2002 issue of The Lyme Times (a publication of the Lyme Disease Research Center). The Centers for Disease Control recommends that people follow these guidelines to avoid or prevent ticks from biting:

• Use a repellent with DEET on skin or clothing or permethrin on clothing and wear long sleeves, long pants and socks (do not allow children to apply repellants with DEET themselves)

• Wear light-colored clothing so that you can see ticks if they are crawling on your clothing

• Tuck your pant legs into your socks so that ticks cannot crawl up your legs

• Examine yourself for ticks after being outdoors and remove any ticks you find

Being outdoors is a fun way to spend time with your family and pets, and it also gives your pet the exercise he or she needs for a healthy lifestyle. Following these guidelines can help safeguard the people and animals in your life, ensuring fun and good times for all.

Earth Day: How to Make Your Dog More Green

Let's face it: Dogs have big carbon pawprints, as we all do. Because they are largely carnivorous, their toll on the environment is nearly as large as that of a human, but there are ways to create a more environmentally sustainable pooch.

What is a Carbon Pawprint?

A carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere just by living our daily lives. Environmental groups have been watching the rising amount of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and urging everyone to cut back where they can. The biggest emitters of CO2 are automobiles, factories and coal-fired power plants. But even the family dog creates its share of harmful greenhouse gases. Some report that the dog is as big an emitter as the family SUV.

The Carnivorous Diet

Your dog's meat-loving diet is the biggest factor in his carbon emissions. Beef cows emit methane, an even more dangerous greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Even chickens and lambs are not raised in an eco-friendly way, and those heavy bags of dry food and cans of meaty foods have to travel a very long way to get to your door.

The solution? Make your own dog food using locally grown or organic vegetables and vegetable proteins. Your veterinarian can help you determine the exact mix of carbohydrate, protein and fat to keep the dog happy and healthy, and can suggest vitamins and minerals that should be included.

Consider how much healthier homemade meals can be for your dog, especially considering the recent recalls of commercial pet food. Toxins and salmonella introduced in the manufacturing process poisoned and sickened many pets. Your homemade dog food also won't have chemicals and preservatives.

If this seems too complicated, consider buying smaller packages of locally made dog food, or you can switch to meat sources other than beef, which have less impact on the environment.

Other Environmental Impacts

When buying pet products, look for eco-friendly brands that limit the amount of harmful chemicals that will eventually enter the air or water. Dog shampoos often contain environmental pollutants such as sodium lauryl sulfate. Read labels. If you are buying dog toys, avoid plastic and synthetic products and look for recycled and recyclable goods. There are many available products made from natural fibers such as organic cotton or hemp. Dogs love cotton stuffed animal toys they can toss around, but make sure they are tough enough not to break apart.

Safe Flea and Tick Treatments

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recently published a warning about flea control products. Their research suggests that some products pose a risk of cancer for children. If you have young children in the household, ask your vet about safe handling instructions for your pest products. You may wish to consider some alternate products available from your veterinarian. You can also read the NRDC's list of safer flea control products.

Pooper Scoopers

When walking your dog in a city park or along suburban sidewalks, most dog owners know to pick up after their dogs. Not scooping the poop is irresponsible. If you leave dog droppings, the bacteria can contaminate nearby water reservoirs and wells. If you are picking up after your dog, shop for biodegradable plastic bags.

Control Pet Populations

Overpopulation of dogs, and a surplus of unwanted dogs, is not a healthy situation for the planet. Spaying and neutering your dog is the eco-conscious thing to do. An unwanted litter of puppies creates a huge environmental impact, as much as a fleet of SUVs. Consider visiting a shelter or rescue organization when it comes time to add a dog to your family.

Small steps such as these can make a difference, especially when practices become widespread. You don't have to give up the dog to be environmentally responsible. If we all do our part, we can make pet ownership sustainable.

Say Thank You: World Veterinary Day is April 29

Saturday, April 29 is World Veterinary Day for 2017. Started by the World Veterinary Association, World Veterinary Day was started to honor veterinarians and spread awareness of the One Health Concept, which “recognizes that the health and well-being of animals, humans and the ecosystem are interconnected, and depend on effective and sustained collaboration between human and animal-focused disciplines.”

But what does your veterinarian actually do?

If you think veterinary medicine is about animals, you’re only partially right. Animals don’t call veterinarians. People call veterinarians. The vast range of people and places needing veterinary services include research laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, zoos, dairies, swine farms, public health departments, feed industry, livestock industry and pet owners. Veterinary medicine is a great field because it encompasses so many different areas.

Most people don’t realize how closely human medicine is linked to veterinary medicine. Lifesaving medical advances, in areas from vaccine development to heart surgery, could not have been made without the use of research animals. People may also be unaware of the public services that involve veterinarians. Government agencies from the FDA to state health departments rely on veterinarians to track rabies, foodborne illnesses and diseases transmitted from animals to people.

Of course, there are many benefits to working closely with animals. One of the pleasures of being a veterinarian is that people who own animals love their animals, whether the animals are horses, pigs, iguanas or puppies. You are generally dealing with people with empathy who like what they are doing. They recognize that what is best for the animal is also usually best for them.

For more information about World Veterinary Day, check out the World Veterinary Association’s website.

Flea Control for Your Cat

The summer is made for lazing about in the sun and spending time outdoors, two activities cats love. But when the weather is warm, fleas are never far behind. As temperatures rise, it becomes increasingly important to protect your feline friend from hungry fleas.

Keeping fleas off your pet and out of your home is about more than just stopping your pet's constant scratching. Aside from itchy, irritating bites, fleas can cause the skin disease flea allergy dermatitis in both cats and dogs, as well as miliary dermatitis in cats. A single flea bite can trigger flea allergy dermatitis, which can lead to excessive scratching, hair loss and, potentially, a secondary bacterial infection. Miliary dermatitis consists of small bumps, called papules that eventually develop into crusts. Fleas can also transmit Dipylidium caninum, or double-pore tapeworm, a common tapeworm found in dogs and cats, as well as a number of other diseases.

Even if fleas aren't on your pet right now, they may be living in your home. There are four stages in a flea's life cycle: egg, larva, pupa and adult. It is only during the adult stage that the flea actually lives on an animal. During the other three stages, the flea lives in the surround environment. Immature fleas usually account for about 90 to 95 percent of the total flea population in a home. A good rule of thumb is that for every flea you find on your pet, there are about 100 more immature fleas living in the surrounding environment.

The average flea can live for anywhere between 12 days and 180 days, though the typical lifespan of a flea lasts three to six weeks. But even in that short amount of time, an adult female can lay more than 1,000 eggs, which means that even only one tiny flea can result in big problems.

How can you tell if fleas have invaded your home and latched on to your dog? Scratching is the first sign. During feeding, fleas inject saliva into the skin of the animal. This saliva contains proteins that cause allergic skin reactions, which leads to bouts of rubbing and scratching. Fleas are most commonly found on cats around the base of the tail and on the head, neck and ears. If you suspect your cat has fleas but cannot see them, check for "flea dirt." This is the excrement of the flea and consists of a mix of feces and dried blood. To find flea dirt, have your pet lay on the ground and place a piece of white paper underneath him or her. Brush your pet and let the paper collect any dirt or debris. Next, add a few drops of water to the dirt on the paper; if dried blood is present, the water will take on a reddish color, indicating the presence of flea dirt.

During the last several years, significant improvements have been made to flea control products. Oral and topical medications containing insect growth regulators (IGR) and insect development inhibitors (IDI) disrupt the flea's maturation process and stop infestations before they begin. These treatments are less toxic for pets and the environment and more effective in controlling fleas.

Topical treatments are more effective than past products because they remain on the surface of the pet's skin, where they are toxic only to fleas, rather than absorbed into the pet's bloodstream. The safest and most effective flea control products are available through your veterinarian. Flea control products designed for dogs should never be used on cats. Products containing pyrethrin- or pyrethroid-based chemicals can be dangerous and possibly fatal for your cat. You should keep dogs and cats separate immediately after applying flea control products.

Keeping Your Dog Healthy

Maintaining your dog in top physical shape and optimum health is the goal of every responsible dog owner. It is also your veterinarian's goal, and together, you can ensure that your pet stays healthy for years to come. Crucial to maintaining your dog's good health is the routine physical examination that your veterinarian performs on your pet.

Check-ups are important because they provide an opportunity to prevent diseases or even avoid them altogether. Unfortunately, many pet owners tend to underestimate the value of these visits because their pets appear to be healthy. However, this may be deceiving, since many diseases are often not evident in the early stages.

What Happens During A Wellness Examination?

Before the physical examination begins, your veterinarian asks you questions concerning your dog's state of health. This is very important for determining whether or not there are problem areas that need to be addressed. After obtaining a history, your veterinarian performs a physical examination on your dog. Starting at the head, your veterinarian examines the eyes, ears, face, and mouth. Examining the teeth is especially important since up to 85% of all dogs and cats over four years of age have some degree of periodontal disease! Early detection of periodontal disease is important, not only for effective treatment but also future prevention.

Health & Behavioral Risks to Consider

• Heartworm- Heartworm disease is a serious threat that causes cardiovascular weakness and lung incapacity. Caused by Dirofilaria immitis, these worms plug up blood vessels, which places an increased workload on the heart, along with restricted blood flow to the lungs, kidneys, and liver. This can eventually lead to multiple organ failure, including heart failure and death. Visible signs of the disease often do not appear before the infection has caused significant and irreversible internal damage. As part of an annual physical examination, your veterinarian can perform a simple test to detect heartworm disease and prescribe an easy-to-use preventive.

• Obesity- Your veterinarian can also determine whether or not your dog has an obesity problem. Obesity affects almost one out of every three pets, making it the most common nutritional disease among dogs and cats. Through visual assessment and palpation, your veterinarian can advise on whether or not your dog could benefit from a weight-reduction program.

• Diet- Diet is one of the most important considerations in health maintenance. Its importance lies not only in optimizing a pet's health, but also in the prevention and management of many diseases. Nutritional counseling is an essential part of the veterinarian's checkup and many owners use the opportunity to gain valuable advice on what to feed their pets.

• Obedience- Training is important for your pet's health because behavioral problems account for more deaths in dogs than any known disease. In fact, a well-trained and obedient dog is more likely to live to a ripe old age than a poorly trained one. Obedience-trained dogs are less likely to be involved in car accidents and dogfights, tend to be happier, and are less likely to have behavioral problems. The checkup provides an opportunity to discuss training techniques and behavior concerns with your veterinarian.